Recreational paua divers in the south are celebrating after the Government decided it would continue to keep commercial paua fishermen out of areas that are off limits to the industry.
The commercial paua industry had applied to harvest paua in restricted areas in Southland and Otago: Bluff Hill area from Steep Head to Barracouta Point; Waipapa Point; Clutha River Mouth; and parts of the Otago Peninsula.
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said yesterday the restrictions on commercial paua harvesting in the areas would remain in place.
The news was welcomed by Paua for the People - the group campaigning against the proposal - which feared commercial fishing would leave nothing for recreational divers.
Former All Black and Paua to the People spokesman Kees Meeuws said the long and uncertain battle had been worth it.
"It is very satisfying to be able to protect something that benefits so many people," he said.
"This was an important decision for any New Zealander who enjoys diving, fishing and hunting to put food on the table for their families."
Mr Guy said he had taken a precautionary approach in his decision to continue with the exclusion of commercial fishing.
"It's clear these areas are greatly valued by recreational and customary fishers," he said.
The decision comes after Ministry for Primary Industries officials held extensive discussions with local iwi and recreational and commercial fishers.
Paua Management Area Council 5 chairman Storm Stanley said the industry was disappointed but commercial paua divers in Southland and Otago had to live with the minister's decision.
"The extended consultation made it apparent that there seemed to be a much higher level of customary and recreational take from these areas than at first thought," he said.
"We will continue to work with recreational divers on maintaining and improving the health of this shared fishery."
The decision would not have any impact on the paua industry harvesting its quota, Mr Stanley said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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